Success Stories

Hundreds of students have gone through BLCI’s after school programs. We measure success not only by those who enroll in College, but also by the challenges they have overcome and the positive impact they are having on their families and their communities.  We regularly update these stories, so please visit often. 

Melissa Aguiar

UC Berkeley 2021 – Master’s in Social Welfare 

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I first joined BLCI in 2001, when I was in third grade. Of course, I didn’t know what college was when I first joined, but shortly enough I would be ending my weekdays by responding to “Who wants to go to college?” and screaming at the top of my lungs “WE DO.”
With BLCI’s support, I was able to navigate the challenges of being a first-generation student and pursue a college level education. I am a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a master’s degree in Social Welfare with a concentration in Strengthening Children, Youth and Families. As a Latina Social Worker, I plan to support children, youth, and families in navigating the complexities of trauma and bring resources to my community to together fight the systems that were not built for us. I am humbled to receive this degree for my family, my community, my people. From Barrio Logan to UC Berkeley, ¡Si Se Pudo! 

Salma Parra

UCSD 2023 – Double Major in Public Health and Latin American Studies

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  1. PATHS is a program Salma applied for when she was a senior in high school. Their mission is, “to increase the number, persistence, and success of underserved and underrepresented minority (URM) students in STEM in San Diego.” Through this Salma has been given opportunities to have private tutors, internships and involvement with professors for research opportunities, and has gained a mentor to guide her through her college experience as a first generation college student.
  2. BLCI provided an extreme amount of resources for her and helped her through the entire course of her college application journey. She also took advantage of the Leadership opportunities given which allowed her to shine even brighter and prepared her to take intuitive within her college experience at UCSD.

Julieta Soto

UC Berkeley 2023 – Double Major in English and Spanish

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  1. EOP has help Juletia with varies opportunities such as Summer Bridge. This helped her transition to Berkeley and to see the kind of culture Berkeley has. She feels if she did not have EOP she would have felt very lost and out of place. EOP has also given her a comfortable setting where she can ask as many questions as she wants, different programs such as the Chicano Latino Student Development. One memory she has is when her mom dropped her off CLSD provided a Spanish orientation and her mom felt very comfortable to leave her daughter especially since she is far away from home, but she knew Julieta was in good hands. 
  2. BLCI played a huge role in what college is and explaining from all the seminars she attended and how one particular specialist was constantly excited to teach. He was a huge mentor to her and she never felt like an outsider, she felt very welcomed and she knows BLCI will always be here for her. 

Alexandra Morales

UC Berkeley 2023 –  Major – Urban Studies; Minor(s) – Global Poverty and Practice, Creative Writing

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  1. In my first year of college I was very fortunate enough to live in CASA Magdalena Mora, a Latinx themed housing where my family knew I was en buenas manos, and was greeted with a community of support and amor.
  2. BLCI gave me the resources and tools to pursue higher education and ultimately, to break the cycle of poverty for not only my familia, but for my comunidad as well.

Milenia Quintero

USC 2022 – Majoring in Sociology with a minor in Legal Studies

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  1. Milenia is currently involved in at USC are she is a sister of Kappa Delta Chi sorority incorporated, Latinx Student Assembly, Improving Dreams Education Access and Success (IDEAS). Kappa Delta Chi is a Latina founded sorority in 1987 in Texas, this is a new sorority through unity, honestly, and leadership. Very heavy on academic support, community service, and host serval events throughout the year. They have had one of the highest GPA’s above all multicultural sorority and fraternities. Because of Kappa Delta Chi has allowed her to find a place of her own and a support system for her away from home. She has grown and done so many things because of her sisters. 
  2. BLCI provided the guidance and support that she needed in order to make her college application journey easy to facilitate.

Ana Hernandez

SDSU 2021 – Chicano Chicana Studies 

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“BLCI has truly been the backbone for my educational retention and success. After graduating high school, I attended the San Diego Community Colleges in order to earn my Associate’s in Communication Studies, and Chicana & Chicano Studies. BLCI helped me navigate the transfer process, and provided me with the necessary tools and support to not only attain higher education but to be successful. I am so thankful for all the opportunities BLCI has given me and my family!

Currently, I am a senior at San Diego State University majoring in Chicana & Chicano Studies. In addition to my position as an ESL Instructional Assistant at Cesar Chavez Campus through San Diego Continuing Education, I am also working as an undergraduate research fellow with the Research and Equity Scholarship Institute on Student Trajectories in Education (RES-ISTE) under Dr. Herrera-Villarreal through the San Diego State University Research Foundation.

After completing my bachelor’s degree in Chicana and Chicano Studies, I plan to apply to graduate school in order to pursue a Master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs with an emphasis in Education Policy. I hope to one day be able to give back to my educational roots in Barrio Logan and to the community colleges as an academic advisor and professor.”

Zimrri Gudino

CSU Chico 2018 – Bachelor’s degree, Management Information Systems and Services

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Zimrri joined BLCI when he was in third grade, and remained in the program until he graduated high school in 2014. Zimrri clearly remembers being eight years old and already knowing college was important and would change his life!

Zimrri earned a full ride to CSU Chico by putting in countless hours of work with BLCI tutors.

“It wasn’t a simple task, but I knew it was possible. Every day after school during my senior year, I would go to BLCI to work on my scholarship application writing. I would spend at least one to two hours on writing. After completing my writing, I had at least six people read and critique my stories. Jim, the writing tutor, said I probably wrote around 100 rough drafts. I lost count, I just knew I had to write. I was a finalist for the Gates Millennium, applied to 28 universities, and won enough scholarships to pay my four years. If it wasn’t for BLCI, my life would have been very different.

From connecting me with Qualcomm’s Hire-a-Youth program, to giving me the opportunity to go visit universities in the Bay Area, BLCI has opened many doors for me. BLCI is more than just an after-school program. It is a family, it’s my second home, and it’s a place where dreams become a reality.”

Today, Zimrri is a Senior Quality Assurance Engineer at a tech company in the Bay Area, and is committed to helping students in low-income communities break the cycle of poverty.

Ashley Valentin

USD 2023 – Major in Environmental Studies; Minor in Business Administration.

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“BLCI has been my support system since third grade.  It has provided me endless opportunities for self-growth, efficient mentorship, and resources to thrive as a first-generation college student. Additionally, it challenged me to better myself as a student, activist, and person.

Today, I am an undergraduate at the University of San Diego, majoring in  Environmental Studies with an emphasis on Politics and Law and minoring in Business Administration. I am serving my local community as a Portside steering committee member for the Community Air Protection Program (AB 617). I am also the Outreach Coordinator for Mundo Gardens, a non-profit organization that advocates for environmental justice in Central San Diego.

I plan to go to Graduate School for Law with an emphasis on Environmental Justice or Business Administration. I also want to create a Farmer’s market in Logan Heights to eliminate food deserts and provide healthy and affordable food options, while also informing the public about environmental injustices in low-income communities.”

Ashley continues to be involved with BLCI by connecting with current students and involving them in community projects she works on with Mundo Gardens and USD!

Sinai Cota

SDSU 2013B.A. in Religious Studies; Double minor in Communications and Chicana/o/x Studies. 

USD – Master’s in Higher Education Leadership Studies

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Sinai attended San Diego State University and received her BA in Religious Studies with a double minor in Communications and Chicana/o/x Studies. She later went on to receive her Master’s in Higher Education Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego. Sinai is currently working at UC San Diego supporting underrepresented students in STEM fields as an advisor, recruiter, and events coordinator. Sinai is also currently enrolled in her first year of UCSD’s Joint Doctoral Program with Cal State San Marcos in Education.

“BLCI supported me as I navigated being homeless in high school. The first time I boarded a plane was with BLCI on our Bay Area trip to tour universities. They opened up a world of possibilities that I didn’t know existed outside of San Diego. I am forever grateful because it gave me the courage to study abroad a semester in Italy. The relationships I developed within the organization provided me with the safety and stability that I needed to thrive as a student and a person. BLCI means familia. I’m always greeted with warmth and community and am eager to stay connected, volunteer, and give back.”

In July 2020, Sinai published “Pink Poems Tan Thoughts”, a collection of short stories and bilingual poems. Sinai donates 100% of the book profits to college scholarships for BIPOC student leaders from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.

Stephanie Hernandez

SDSU 2017 – Bachelor’s degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution 

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“BLCI is a place I will forever call a second home. I probably ate more dinners at BLCI than in my own home for most of my school-age years. BLCI was a safe-haven, a place where I wasn’t judged for not understanding a math problem, where I went if I needed a distraction-free space to work on my essays. I come back every year and support families by offering presentations, interactive activities with the students; I was even an intern where I helped parents apply for jobs. Thank you BLCI for continuing to provide families not only support but a place where they feel at home.”

Stephanie obtained a bachelor’s degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution with a specialization in Environment and Security from San Diego State University in 2017. She was able to obtain enough scholarships in high school and through college, that she graduated debt-free. Stephanie is the now Transportation & Planning Program Manager at City Heights Community Development Corporation where she conducts transportation, planning, and environmental policy research. Stephanie is also an alumnus of the Aaron Price Fellows Program and a proud member of MANA de San Diego and City Heights Rotaract.